Follow by Email

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Sacrifice Of A Servant

Mark ten opens with the Pharisees seeking to create controversy.  They do so with the issue of divorce and remarriage, a sad and all too often tragic reality of the human condition.  The Pharisees desired to mire Jesus in controversy but as usual Jesus responded with clear declarations, What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

There is then the brief encounter between the disciples and those that were seeking to bring children to Jesus. Jesus’ response was, Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: . . . .

Then we move quickly to the rich young ruler's time with Jesus from which he went away grieved and unrepentant, and unforgiven.  Jesus then uses the response of the rich young ruler to point out to his disciples that it is hard for rich men to enter into the kingdom of Heaven.

It is from this exchange that we are launched into the passage under consideration.  We see once again, as in John 13, the stark contrast between the Apostles and Jesus.  They were seeking a throne, he was embracing a cross.  They desired to rule, he desired to serve.  They were marked by jealousy and envy; he had sacrifice engraved on his heart and soul.  They were willing to sacrifice others to achieve greatness; he was willing to sacrifice himself so others could achieve greatness.

These realities bring us to the focus of attention in the passage this morning, The Sacrifice Of A Servant.

We begin in verses 28-31 with the solace of sacrifice.
In verse 28 Peter points out that they had, left all, and followed Christ.  It is a significant claim that is not challenged.  In fact the inspired record makes it clear these men left all and followed Christ.  This, of course, is in contrast to the rich young ruler.  Of course in leaving all they had not left what Christ had left.  They could not.  No one will ever sacrifice to follow Christ what Christ sacrificed to follow the will of God.  They had followed him however imperfectly to this point and the rich young ruler had been unwilling to do so.
Peter's claim is followed up by a promise from Christ in verses 29 and 30.  Jesus reminds his men that no one has forsaken anything for which they will not be abundantly compensated.  It seems to be clear that Jesus does not intend to provide one hundred houses for every one forsaken for his cause and the gospel's.  Such an arrangement would cultivate a spirit that Jesus was attempting to correct, a covetous spirit that is unwilling to sacrifice.  Of course the promise of compensation is attached to the promise of persecutions and most importantly in the world to come eternal life.  Knowing that the issues of the next life are settled provides an unwavering peace for this life.
Then Jesus in verse 31 lays down a spiritual law.  But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.  It is statements like these that give a glimpse into the infinite mind of God.  A whole life of observation is turned on its head with these two statements.  What appears to be the head of the line is actually the end of the line!  What appears to be the back of the line is actually the head of the line!  There is little competition for last place!  Christianity truly requires the renewing of our minds.  We are conditioned by everything around us to be first, acknowledged, applauded, honored, noticed, advanced, etc…..  But God says, many that are first shall be last, and the last first.

Do we believe it?  And then do we not immediately fight over being last so that we can be first?  If we are settling for last so we can be first that is just another method of struggling for the first place.  There is a demand here for purity of heart, genuineness of soul, integrity of motive.  It is not sacrificing for what we can get out of it.  It is not being a servant because of the opportunity for advancement.  It is really not caring who gets the credit.

Then in verses 32-34 we are reminded of the supreme sacrifice.

In verse 32 it was a place of appointment: Jerusalem.  Jesus had an appointment of sacrifice there.  He was not going there to be honored but to be executed.  He was not going there to be extolled but to be ridiculed.  He was not going there to be exalted but to be reviled.  And, he went anyway.  It is the sacrifice of a servant.

In verse 33 it was the place of judgment.  Three things are mentioned:

delivered to the chief priests and unto the scribes
they shall condemn him to death
they shall deliver him to the Gentiles

Knowing all of this he continued walking toward Jerusalem!

In verse 34 it was the place of sacrifice.  Jesus had a clear understanding of what was before him.

they shall mock him
they shall scourge him
they shall spit upon him
they shall kill him

Knowing the certainty of his destiny he continues to walk toward Jerusalem.  Every step brought him closer to mockery.  Every step brought him closer to the dreaded Roman scourge.  Every step brought him closer to the humiliation of spitting.  Every step brought him closer to Calvary.  Yet, he took each successive step, making his way to the place of sacrifice.

With his sacrifice there was an accompanying promise, and the third day he shall rise again.  No man sacrifices without receiving recompense.  He gave himself in death.  He would be raised from the dead, a resurrection that was only made possible by his death.  He took the last place of a felon's cross; he became the firstfruits of the resurrection!

Then a remarkable thing happens in verses 35-41.  James and John the sons of thunder approach and have the audacity to seek a place at his right and left hand.  They are seeking a place of prominence, they are lobbying to be first.  The truth is they did not even realize what it was they were seeking.  Their vision of grandeur had clouded their judgment.

What would you think would be the response of the other ten Apostles?  Verse 41 records, And when the ten heard it, they began to be much displeased with James and John.

Why?  Because they wanted to sit on his right hand or left hand!  James and John's  bold lobbying for the position created envy and contempt for the two sons of thunder.  The other ten also wanted to be first.  Would they have been as jealous had they asked to sit at the feet of Jesus?  I think not!  It was not the nearness to Jesus but the relation of their position to Jesus.

As long as no one is making an overt play for the head of the line we can feign indifference.  But let someone with the audacity of a James and John appear and we easily become incensed at their impropriety, and at the possibility they might actually get the position, honor, advancement, or place we want.

Then in verses 42-45 Jesus sets forth the standard of sacrifice.

He begins by reminding them of the world's standard in verse 42.  Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them.  This is the way of the world.  This is the "dog eat dog" mentality.  It is vicious and ferocious.  It despises humility, meekness, and service.

Then in verse 43 Jesus tears down the old standard to erect a new one.  He dismantles the world's standard in one statement, But so shall it not be among you.  You must abandon this way of thinking.  You must embrace another paradigm, another model.  God's kingdom is intended to function on different terms.

Having dismissed the world's standard at the end of verse 43 and moving into verse 44 he erects a new standard.  He does so by presenting the standard in two ways.

Whosoever shall be great among you shall be your minster.  I love what Gill writes concerning this and its application to the Apostles, " This was just the reverse of what the two disciples were seeking for; they were indeed for being ministers but then they were for being prime ministers of state; and would have had all the rest subject to them and attendants on them to be sent out and employed as they should think fit: . . . .”

Whosoever of you shall be the chiefest, shall be servant of all.  Jesus is saying that in my kingdom it is being a servant that renders one glorious.  We are set apart by our service rendered on the behalf of others.

Lastly, in verse 45, Jesus steps to the front as the standard bearer!  For even the Son of Man, Jesus says.  "Even" - if him then certainly you.  He who had every reason to expect to be served.

. . .came not to be ministered unto . . .  He left a place where he was constantly ministered to by angels.  They were at his beckon call.  They worshipped him unceasingly.  They adored him.  He was seated on the right hand of the Father, the place of honor and authority.  Yet, he did not come to earth to be served.

. . . but to minster.  Do you see the sacrifice of a servant?  He left the place of being served by holy angels to serve fallen man!  He was not here so men could serve him but so the he could serve men.  The creator serving the creature!

We must be looking for ways to use our role to serve God and others.  Rather than grasping for a throne let us be seeking a place of service.  Let us serve not worrying about whether we are first or last, just serve.  When others are honored rejoice in their accomplishments.  When we believe we are overlooked let us remember we have a God who does not overlook.  Let us be great servants and then we will be truly great!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Beyond The Scope Of Human Language

Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift. 2 Corinthians 9:15

Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls. 1 Peter 1:8,9

His unspeakable gift causes me to rejoice with joy unspeakable. Both the gift and the joy no tongue can truly tell. No master of words can expound the greatness of the gift or the heights of the joy. It is beyond the scope of human language and expression.

When all effort has been exhausted and our tongues fall silent and our pens run dry we will realize the inadequacy of words to describe the glory of the gift and the exuberance of the joy! In hushed silence our hearts will overflow with gratitude for the grace of God in sending his only Son to die in the place and stead of sinners, to die for me.

At that moment all other blessings will evaporate into nothingness and our whole being will know an unspeakable joy that is rooted only in his unspeakable gift. In that moment of silence in the secret place of our heart we will feel His presence and know that we know him and the fullness of our heart will be reduced to two simple words: THANK YOU!

The Practice Of A Servant

In this post I want to consider what the humility of a servant looks like in a practical situation.  How did the mind of Christ respond when he walked the dusty trails of this earth?  I want to think about The Practice of a Servant.  No one so dramatically demonstrates the essence of service like Christ himself.

Let us quietly slip into the upper room where Jesus is gathered with his church and behold as the son of man condescends to the lowest task of the household and washes the feet of the disciples.  Let us look and learn!

I think it is important to consider the awareness of a servant.  Verse 3 notes an important element of this narrative.  It sets forth the basis on which Christ could move forward to serve these men the way he did that evening.  Verse 3 says, Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God; . . . .

This verse tells us what Jesus knew.  There were basically three things that he knew that liberated him to be a servant.

1.  Jesus knowing that the Father had given all into his hands.  Jesus understood his authority.  Jesus understood his standing.  He knew who he was and was confident about his relationship to the Father.  He had nothing to prove.  He knew that washing feet would not change the fact that the Father had given all into his hands.  Knowing what he had been given allowed him to freely serve others.

2.  Jesus knew that he was come from God.  He knew this.  He was confident in relation to his origin.  Jesus knew from whence he came.  He knew that he was sent by the Father.  He knew he was commissioned by the Father.  He knew he was authorized by the Father.  He knew that washing feet would not change the fact that he was come from God.  Knowing from whence he came allowed him to freely serve others.

3.  Jesus knew he went to God.  He knew this.  He was confident in relation to his end.  He knew he would be returning to the Father to be seated on his right hand.  He knew he would be received by the Father.  He knew that washing feet would not change the fact that he went to God.  Knowing where he was going allowed him to freely serve others.

An unwillingness to humble ourselves and serve others is likely an indication that we lack confidence about what we have been given, from whence we came, and where we are going.  If we knew these things, truly knew them, we would know that washing feet would not change these realities.

If I am a son of God washing feet will not change that.  If we know we have been made kings and priests unto God we would surely know that washing feet will not change this.  An unwillingness to serve reveals an uncertainty about our relation to God.  Consequently we are not free to humble ourselves and serve others.  We will be too afraid that someone might actually think we are a servant!  When I know these things I am liberated to serve.  I can practice the life of a servant.

Next it is important to note the focus of a servant.  Jesus knowing what he did about himself and his relation to God embraced a lowly place of service among these men.  The next few verses are remarkable and riveting as they unfold a simple series of events that stand out, in many ways, among all the things that Jesus did.

Verses 4 and 5 give us the brief series of events, He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself.  After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded.

He riseth from supper.  From the reclining position and probably not much noticed by the disciples.

He laid aside his garment.  Probably the very one that the Romans soldiers would be casting lots for in less than 24 hours.  This probably caught the eye of some of the disciples.

And took a towel and girded himself.  The Apostles had no doubt seen the servant of a house do this on many occasions.  Those who were paying attention must of thought it a little strange that Jesus was girding himself like a servant.

After that he poured water into a basin.  Again the disciples had no doubt seen this scene unfold on numerous occasions.  Had it been any other person they would have no doubt known the purpose for which this was being done.  Because it was Jesus they likely were wondering what he had in mind.

And began to wash the disciples feet.  I feel quite certain the disciples were taken back by this act of service on Jesus' part.  If the words of Peter in the following verses are any indication they were all uncomfortable with Jesus washing their feet.

And to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded.  So, here was Jesus, the Lord of glory kneeling at the dusty, weary feet of these 12 rugged men performing the task of a common servant!

There are some interesting things to to take into account about this scene.  This was a role usually assumed by the servant of the house.  It was also a task that was normally performed shortly after the guest arrived in the home.  The fact that Jesus was now washing their feet seems to indicate that there had been no servant present to perform this menial task.  Remember they were meeting in a borrowed room.

There were 13 men present in the room and only one servant and that being the one who actually was worthy of being served.  The Apostles, rather than take the role of a servant, were content to let the task go undone.  They were not inclined to wash each other's feet.  They were willing for their own feet to go unwashed.  And, most importantly, Jesus' feet were going unwashed.  He was doing for others what no one had attempted to do for him!

Remember, why was he able to do this?  Because of what he knew!  Jesus knowing . . . riseth from supper and began to wash the disciples' feet.  He knew who he was, where he was from, and where he was going.  He was not worried what people would think about him assuming the role of a servant.  A servant's heart is rooted in a knowing heart.  His exercise of humility did not change the reality of what he had been given, where he was from, or where he was going.  Let me remind you, An unwillingness to serve is a manifestation of insecurity.

It is also memorable that Jesus did not say anything, he just did.  He did not say, "OK, I am going to wash your feet."  He simply got up and did it.  There was no announcement or fanfare.
When we drop down to verses 12-17 we see the lesson of a servant.  So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you?  Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am.  If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet.  For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.  Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him.  If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.
Having returned to his place at the table he begins with a question, Know ye what I have done to you?  The concrete aspect of what he had done was easy enough to know.  The abstract aspect of what he had done was the point of the question.  There was more here than meets the eye.
He follows up the question with a statement of fact.  Ye call me master and Lord.  He points out that they were right to do so for it was true.  He was their master and Lord.
He then highlights an absurdity.  It is basically this.  If I am your Lord and master and have washed your feet, you should be willing to wash one another's feet.  They were equals and it should have been even easier for any one of them to assume the role Jesus did although none of them had been inclined to do so.
Jesus moves from the absurdity to an exhortation.  He claims to have given them an example.  It does not seem likely that the example was to be understood in the narrow confines of foot-washing.  The example is broader than the washing of feet.  In fact one could wash the brethren's feet on a regular basis and still not necessarily be properly applying the example.  He tells them to follow the example.  It is clear, at least to me, that Jesus does not have in mind here the physical act of washing feet for in verse 7 he said, What I do thou knowest not now; and in verse 12 he asked, Knowest ye what I have done to you?
What had he done to them?  He had assumed a place of humility before them.  He assumed the place of a servant.  It seems these were the two primary lessons Jesus was seeking to impart.  He was seeking to teach them humility and service.  What better way to do that than assume the most menial task of the household?  A role none of them had been inclined to embark upon.  They would rather have their feet unwashed than humble themselves and wash the feet of their fellow disciples.
Jesus concludes with encouragement.  If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.  If we humble ourselves we are happy.  If we serve others we are happy.  If we are unhappy, sour, dissatisfied, and filled with self-pity we should first start by examining the presence of pride and the absence of service in our own lives.  Jesus clearly said, Happy are ye if ye do them.  Can we do them and not be happy?
The reason for the happiness would seem to be obvious on the face of it.  If we are humbling serving others several things will be true.  We will be focused on others and not ourselves.  We will be occupied with serving others and not ourselves.  We will be less concerned about ourselves and our needs and more concerned about others and their needs.
These twelve men were willing to endure the indecency of coming to the table with feet that had not been washed rather than to wash each other's feet.  It was their master and Lord who had humbled himself and served them.  How happy could they have been about that??
The next time we find ourselves tiring of the role of a servant and its demands on our lives let us remember Jesus.  Let us see him there in the upper room, laying aside his garment, girding himself with a towel, taking a basin of water and washing the feet of the disciples everyone of whom would abandon him that very night and one of whom would betray him with a kiss into the hand of sinners.  He washed their feet not in ignorance of these facts but in the face of them! 

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Mature Thanksgiving

1 Thessalonians 5:18 - In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

Ephesians 5:20 - Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;

Philippians 4:6 - Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.

These few verses expand the parameters of thanksgiving into sobering places.

1 Thessalonians uses the two words “every thing”
Ephesians uses the three words, “always”, and “all things”
Philippians uses the two words “every thing”

A child is thankful for candy but not medicine
A child is thankful for a toy but not a tool
A child is thankful for a trip to the park but not a trip to the woodshed
A child is thankful for ice cream but not for green peas

It requires some maturity to be thankful for medicine, tools, the woodshed, and our vegetables.

When we begin to think about all for which we have to be thankful does not our minds immediately gravitate toward the pleasant and the things that have made life easy, happy, and enjoyable? Our tendency is to be thankful for the good things in life. The spiritual blessings that we have received in Jesus Christ, the temporal blessing that we have received at the hand of a benevolent God; these are the things that move our tongues to thanksgiving. This is not a bad thing. In fact we should be thankful for the good things of life; spiritual and temporal.

When a child matures to the point of becoming thankful for medicine, tools, the woodshed and vegetables that does not mean the child ceases to be thankful for candy, toys, a trip to the park and ice cream. What it does mean is that he has matured enough to realize that he should be thankful for things that he may not especially like.

All who have lived a little while and been saved for a few years know that there is plenty that takes place in life that is unpleasant, distasteful, hurtful, and just not very fun; things that don’t make us happy or add to our enjoyment of life. Such is the nature of life.

Job 14:1 - Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble.

A mature believer is one who is learning to give thanks for the trouble of life. One who develops an appreciation for the difficulties that occur and can still have their tongue moved to thanksgiving not in spite of the difficulty but because of them!

Philippians 4:11-13 - Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.  I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.  I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.
Paul had learned contentment. He had learned how to be abased and how to abound. He had learned to do this through Christ.

Christ is the great equalizer of life’s up and downs. He never changes. Life ebbs and flows, Christ remains constant. Troubles come and go, Christ promises never to leave us or forsake us. He is there in the good times; he is there in the bad times. I need to learn to be thankful just because He is there.

Psalms 46:1 - God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

When sickness strikes either in our own lives or the life of a loved one do we fret or give thanks?
When we have a financial setback do we grumble or give thanks?
When people disappoint us do we murmur or give thanks?
When the whether is not favorable do we complain or give thanks?
When plans fall through do we stress out or do we give thanks?
When we are humbled do we cringe or do we give thanks?
When we are rebuked do we flare up or do we give thanks?
When we have family trouble do we despair or do we give thanks?
When we have trouble do we sulk or do we give thanks?

Have we matured, have we learned to give thanks for all things, always in everything?

Job 1:20-22  -Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped, And said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.  In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.

Job 2:9,10 - Then said his wife unto him, Dost thou still retain thine integrity? curse God, and die.  But he said unto her, Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Christ: The Humility Of A Servant

C. H. Spurgeon said, "Startle not when I say it, I fear many men proudly ask to be humble: they desire to be humble in order that they may be admired for it."

Herein lies one of the difficulties of humility.  The danger of being proud of our humility.  Humility seems to be rooted in a complete forgetting of self.  Of course in our modern world of mental illness we are encourage to love ourselves, to make sure we have a healthy self-image.  The conflict with humility seems to be readily apparent.  In a generation that is focused on "self" we should not be surprised that genuine humility is a rare virtue.

Philippians 2 provides a wealth of insight concerning humility particularly in the context of being a servant.  In fact Philippians 2 may be to the life of a servant what 1 Corinthians 13 is to charity and 1 Corinthians 15 is to the resurrection.

The chapter easily speaks to us concerning:

1.  Vs: 1-4 - The demand of a servant: Our christian responsibilities to one another
2.  Vs: 5-11 - The mind of a servant:  The example of Christ
3.  Vs: 19-24 - The service of a servant:  The example of Timothy
4.  Vs: 25-30 - The sacrifice of a servant:  the example of Epaphroditus

Let us focus our attention on Christ because of the three noble and glorious examples provided in the chapter of a servant Christ excels the others in glory like the sun excels the moon.  When we see Christ in Philippians 2 a couple of things demand our immediate attention.

1.  He took upon him the form of a servant.
2.  He humbled himself.

These two statements are dependent upon each other for their veracity.  If he truly took upon himself the form of a servant then he must needs have humbled himself.  If he indeed humbled himself he would necessarily be made a servant.  It is for these reasons that Philippians 2 helps us consider the Humility of a Servant.

The first thing we note is the heighteth of Christ in verses 5 and 6, Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:  Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
At the outset we are exhorted to have the mind of Christ.  We are to be like him in our thinking, we are to think as he thought.  This is to be our goal.  It is far too easy to think like the world around us, to revert back to our default settings rooted in the flesh.

We can never appreciate the humility of Christ if we do not first appreciate his eternal glory.  Verse 6 takes us right to the heart of this issue.  Jesus is God, no truth of the Scripture is more clearly presented.  Christ is the only one of whom it has not been robbery to claim equality with God.  It was not robbery because he was equal.  It is important in order to feel the full of force of the coming example that we embrace completely the significance of the deity of Christ.

Holy angels adored him!
Cherubim and seraphim made him the focus of their perpetual worship!
Arc-angels were at his beckon call!
He had spent eternity robed in light!
He was spotless, pure and infinitely holy!
He was in perfect fellowship with the Father!

None of us come even remotely close to his eternal glory as God the Son!

It is then in verses 7 and 8 that we are caused to behold the humility of Christ, But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:  And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

"But", what an important word.  It is being used here in the sense of "although this is true".  It is setting the stage to draw a contrast between who he was and what he became.

He made himself of no reputation.  Consider the implications.

He was born to a peasant family of royal lineage!
He went from a heavenly throne to a crude manger!
He was reduced from speaking the worlds into existence to working in a common carpenter's shop!
He went from the worship of angels to the scoffing of men!
He changed his robe of light for the robe of flesh!

He who had been held in highest regard in heaven was now held is lowest regard among men.

He took upon him the form of a servant.  Do you see the contrast?
From the form of God in verse 6 to the form of a servant in verse 7.  Do you see the infinite gulf between what he was and what he made himself?

Matthew 20:28 - Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

He was made in the likeness of men.  He took upon himself the likeness of that which he had created.  This he did for the purpose of serving the sinner.

Hebrews 2:9,10 - But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.  For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.
Hebrews 14,15 - Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;  And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.

None of us can humble ourselves to the same degree that Jesus did.  We are already so close to the bottom that we do not have room to descend in humility to a comparable degree.  It would do us well to remember this when we are striving to humble ourselves or when God uses others to humble us.

Yet he goes lower still!

And having been found in fashion as a man.  Having been humbled to that degree.  Having embrace humility in an almost infinite measure, there remains more.

He humbled himself.

Again he did so!  "Well", we say, "I've already humbled myself."  Sometimes we have to do it again.....and again......and again........and again.  And if we be called upon to do it a hundred fold may we remember that after the King of Heaven was made a man, he humbled himself!

There is another noteworthy point to be made here.  Vs: 7 - He made himself of no reputation.  Vs: 8 - He humbled himself.  These are things he did to himself.  If I make myself of no reputation, then no one can take it from me.  If I humble myself then no one can humble me.  I don't feel near as threatened by those who attempt to humble me whether justly or unjustly.  No one can do to me what I have already done to myself!

The thing is Jesus knew he was God and therefore he could humble himself.  It did not create an identity crisis on his part.  The more confidence we have in who we are and what we are (in Christ), the more comfortable we will be humbling ourselves and depriving others of circumstances of doing it for us.

And became obedient unto death.

He experienced what sinners experience.  He took upon himself the wages of sin although he had committed no sin.  Having committed no sin he died like sinners die.  He humbled himself to do that.  As a servant he did not cringe at obedience even unto death.

Even the death of the cross.

He not only died like sinners die, he died like felons die.  He was executed by the State for crimes against the State.  Falsely accused he hung on a felon's cross, not just a common criminal but an abominable criminal.  He descended to the very lowest place of humanity and drank the dregs of humility.

The Lord of glory, see him humbled there.  Hanging on a tree.  Condemned, forsaken by God and man!  In full view of the cross claim you have humbled yourself too much???!

Lastly in verse 9-11 we see the honor of Christ, Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:  That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;  And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

God exalted him.  Christ made himself of no reputation.  Christ humbled himself.  God exalted him.

James 4:10 - Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.

God gave him a name which is above every name.  God will see to it that he receives homage from every tongue.

John 12:26 - . . . . him will my Father honor.

C. H. Spurgeon, "If you, Christian people, must dispute about precedence, always fight for the lowest place.  If you aspire to be last and least, you will not have many competitors: there will be no need to demand a poll, for the lowest seat is undisputed."

In other words be a servant and you will be free from the bondage and toil of self-promotion.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Resentful Heart

The following is from A W Tozer's Renewed Day By Day, a daily devotional.  I went through it several years ago.  This devotion is from August 19 and is entitled: The Example of Jesus: Hold No Grudges

Then said Jesus, Father, Forgive them; for they know not what they do . . . .  Luke 23:34

Jesus Christ left us an example for our daily conduct and from it there can be no appeal.  He felt no bitter resentment and he held no grudge against anyone!

Even those who crucified  Him were forgiven while they were in the act.  Not a word did He utter against them nor against the ones who stirred them up to destroy him.

How evil they all were He knew better than any other man, but He maintained a charitable attitude toward them.  They were only doing their duty, and even those who ordered them to their grisly task were unaware of the meaning of their act.

To Pilate, Jesus said, "Thou couldest have not power at all against me, except it were given thee from above."  So he referred everything back to the will of God and rose above the swampland of personalities.

The person with the resentful heart takes just the opposite course, however.  He grows every day harder and more acrimonious as he defends his reputation, his rights, his ministry, against his imagined foes!

The worst feature about this whole thing is that it does no good to call attention to it.  The bitter heart is not likely to recognizes its own condition.  The resentful man in the meantime will grow smaller and smaller trying to get bigger, and he will become more and more obscure trying to become known.  As he pushes on toward his selfish goal his very prayers will be surly accusations against the Almighty and his whole relationship toward other Christians will be one of suspicion and distrust!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Life Of A Servant

John 12:26 - If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour.

Being a servant is not something that is characteristic of the human condition. Our fallen nature keeps us seeking prominence, promotion, and prestige. Our clamoring for new heights bears subtle testimony to the depth of our fall. It is so much a part of our natural condition that if we are not careful we can even serve for purposes of self-promotion.

The fact is we are not born little servants but little tyrants. We are born expecting that the world will lay prostrate at our feet and move heaven and earth to meet our slightest need. From our earliest moments we raise the sharpest cry when the meeting of our needs is postponed for any reason. While we may become slightly more refined as the months turn into years the basic problem is still deeply rooted in the human heart. I do not want to serve, I want to be served.

Our tendency is to suspect everyone of trying to get the upper-hand, because we know we are trying to get the upper-hand. We despise those who callously step on and over others in order to advance themselves and thus look for every opportunity to step on or over them having convinced ourselves that they are not near as worthy as we are to assume the throne! We thus live in a world of tension where each is trying to promote self and all service is rendered to that ultimate objective.

There is no liberty like the liberty that comes to grips with it is not about me! It is first and foremost about God and then about others. This frees us from the pressure of advancing our own cause. It liberates us from the quest of conquering the throne. It gives us the opportunity to live for the advancement of God’s kingdom and Christ’s church and for the genuine good of others.

It frees us to live the life of a servant!

"if any man serve me, let him follow me"

This is the essence of a servant.  To serve is to follow.  A man who would serve must be willing to follow and where there is an unwillingness to follow there can be no true service rendered.  This is no doubt why the Lord raised the issue of following him over and over again.

• Mt 4:19 - And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.

• Mt 8:22 - But Jesus said unto him, Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead.

• Mt 16:24 - Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

• John 10:27 - My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:

• John 21:18-22 – What is that to thee follow thou me.

What are the implications of this truth?

1.  To follow means we do not lead.  We do not set the agenda.  We do not tell the Lord what we are going to do for him, we ask him what he wants us to do for him.

2.  This narrows my responsibility to one.  Follow Him!

3.  I must eschew my own way.  I can't follow if I insist on going my own way.  I must be willing to surrender that prerogative.  I must choose his way over my own.

"and where I am, there shall also my servant be"

This is the commitment of a servant.  This statement presents a logical progression of thought.  If we serve him it is because we follow him and if we are in the same way with him we will be where he is.  It is a fundamental principle that the servant is with his master.  It is all ultimately about being where Jesus is.  It is interesting to note where we find Jesus in the gospels.

1.  We find him in poverty (Luke 2:24; Luke 9:58)
2.  We find him in conflict (John 9:58)
3.  We find him being hated (John 15:17-21)
4.  We find him being forsaken by all (Mark 14:50)
5.  We find him being falsely accused (Mark 14:56)
6.  We find him hanging on the cross (Mark 15:25)

"if any man serve me, him will my Father honour"

This is the honor of a servant.  Jesus said if any man serve me.  According to the text to serve him means to follow him, to be where he is.  If we are following him the Father will honor us.  Sometimes it is interesting to note what the Bible does not say.

It does not say the world will honor him.  But the servant is OK with that.  He has long since lost any desire for the honor of the world.  He has been too busy serving to worry about who is being honored and who is not.  It does not say his contemporaries will honor him.  It does not say history will honor him.

It does say the Father will honor him.

Matthew 25:21 - His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Four Decades Of Knowing Him!

2 Timothy 3:15 - And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

It was forty years ago today that God reached down in grace and touched the heart of a seven year old boy.  That seven year old boy was me.  I had the opportunity recently to take my mentor in the ministry to the very place where I got on my knees with a Baptist preacher, a King James Bible, and the Holy Spirit of God.  I went to my knees a condemned sinner I stood up a justified saint.  It seems like it was yesterday.  That building is no longer occupied by a Baptist church but I know the spot even though there has been some slight remodeling over the years.  I remember the burden of sin and judgment pressing upon me and the relief in realizing what Jesus had done for me.  Little did I realize that day what a great Saviour I had just recieved.  Oh, don't misunderstand he seemed great that day, but he has become greater in my estimation over the four decades that I have been privledged to know him and learn of him.
I still remember the burden and fear being carried away by the blood that washed my soul that evening.  There has not been a day since that day that he has not been real to me and though I have often been unfaithful to him I have found him to be ever faithful to me.
I was blessed to have been raised in a home where we were taught the Bible is the word of God.  Our parents took us to church, they did not send us.  We memorized verses and sang the "children's" songs.  We said the "children's" prayers.  All of this allowed me the opportunity to come to know him at an early age.  "That from a child I had known the holy Scriptures"  I will be eternally grateful that they were able to make me wise unto salvation.
I praise God that I came to know him when I did.  It has made all the difference in my life.  I have been able to spend a life time getting to know him and see him work in my life.  I have been able to live almost my entire life with an eye to eternity.  When I trusted him that night I never dreamed that he would stir my heart to preach His truth.  But a mere seven years later at the age of fourteen the Spirit of God was stirring my heart again for ministry, a call by God to preach his word.  I said yes, and have never looked back.  It has been the greatest life a person could be privledged to live and it all started forty years ago today.
When I have sinned I have known his displeasure.
When I have confessed I have know his restoration.
When I have erred I have known his correction.
When I have been tested I have known his strength.
When I have been disappointed I have known his encouragment.
When I have been faithful I have known his blessings.
When I have been courageous I have known his support.
When I have been fearful I have known his comfort.
I have found him to be everything I could ever need.  I have never found him to be wanting.  I have never discovered him to be unfaithful.  I have found him completely trustworthy.  I have found his wisdom to be true.  I have found his presence to be real.
Now, here I am forty years later, rejoicing in him and finding that my meditation of him is always sweet and getting sweeter every day.  I have found comfort in realzing I only need to worry that he is pleased with me.  I have focus in only needing to worry that I please him.
"Thank you Lord for saving my soul.
Thank you Lord for making me whole.
Thank you Lord for giving to me thy great salvation so rich and free!"

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Whole World?

Reading the Scripture is a spiritual exercise.  When we come to it in the flesh and read it with a carnal mind we lower it's demands, question it's assessments, and gloss over it's precepts.

1 John 5:19 is a place where it is easy to do that.  And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness.

The carnal minds reasons, well not the "whole" world.  The carnal mind refuses to consider the connection between two opposing realities.  1.  We are of God.  2.  The whole world lieth in wickedness.  The carnal mind goes right past the truth here thinking it is irrelevant for my life.

On the other hand the spiritual mind is caused to stop and ponder.  It sees the footprint of a timeless truth left upon this verse.  There is good and evil and they stand eternally opposed to each other.  The spiritual mind is left uneasy and uncomfortable by the truth it sees here because it knows it is still bound in a body that is characterized by fleshly desires.  It is the anguish expressed in Romans 7, For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.

As believers we are of God and therefore delight in the law of God after the inward man.  On the other hand the whole word lieth in wickedness and our presence in this wicked world continually provides an environment in which we can be drawn away of our own lusts and enticed.

So what practical lesson do we glean from these sobering realities.  It can be summed up in one word.  Separation!  I know it is not a popular word and a word over which there has been much debate, but personal separation is an essential aspect of the Christian experience.  Because we are of God and have been made partakers of the divine nature there should be a desire to separate ourselves from a world of which the scripture declares the "whole" lies in wickedness.

I find it interesting that I often hear the brethren justifying present compromises on the basis of the compromises of previous generations.  It is a sophisticated form of the childish argument, "Well, they did it."  Well, so they did.  There is something commonly human about wanting to turn the attention toward the failures of others (even in previous generations) rather than addressing the more pressing needs of our own lives, families and churches.

Let us embrace the truth and lesson of 1 John 5:19

We are of God.
The whole world lieth in wickedness.
Being of God we should separate ourselves from this world.

Choose ye this day whom you will serve!

Monday, October 04, 2010

The Labor Of Self Love

"The Labor of self-love is a heavy one indeed.  Think for yourself whether much of your sorrow has not arisen from someone speaking slightingly of you.  As long as you set yourself up as a little god to which you must be loyal there will be those who will delight to offer affront to your idol.  How then can you hope to have inward peace?  The heart's fierce effort to protect itself from every slight, to shield its touchy honor from the bad opinion of friend and enemy, will never let the mind have rest.  Continue this fight through the years and the burden will become intolerable.  Yet the sons of earth are carrying this burden continually, challenging every word spoken against them, cringing under every criticism, smarting under each fancied slight, tossing sleepless if another is preferred before them.

Such a burden as this is not necessary to bear.  Jesus calls us to His rest, and meekness is His method.  The meek man cares not at all who is greater than he, for he has long ago decided that the esteem of the world is not worth  the effort.  He develops toward himself a kindly sense of humor and learns to say, ' Oh, so you have been overlooked?  They had placed someone else before you?  They have whispered that you are pretty small stuff after all?  And now you feel hurt because the world is saying about you the very things you have been saying about yourself?  Only yesterday you were telling God that you were nothing, a mere worm of the dust.  Where is your consistency?  Come on, humble yourself and cease to care what men think.'

The meek man is not a human mouse afflicted with a sense of his own inferiority.  Rather, he may be in his moral life as bold as a lion and as strong as Samson, but he has stopped being fooled about himself.  He has accepted God's estimate of his own life.  He knows he is as weak and helpless as God has declared him to be, but paradoxically, he knows at the same time that he is, in the sight of God, more important than angels.  In himself nothing; in God, everything.  That is his motto.  He knows well that the world will never see him as God sees him and he has stopped caring.  He rests perfectly content to allow God to place His own values.  He will be patient to wait for the day when everything will get its own price tag and real worth will come into its own.  Then the righteous shall shine forth in the kingdom of their Father.  He is willing to wait for that day."

A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit Of God

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

He Will Save Us

For the LORD is our judge, the LORD is our lawgiver, the LORD is our king; he will save us.  Isaiah 33:22

I came across this verse in my morning reading today.  What first caught my attention is the presence of three divisions (branches) of government.

Judge - Judicial
Lawgiver - Legislative
King - Executive

When I saw that I paused and reflected on the genius of our form of Government.  It is worthy of note that our government is composed of these same three divisions.

Judge - Federal courts
Lawgiver - Congress
King - President

We call this the separation of powers, a system of checks and balances.  Of course each of the branches are to be governed by the document that brought them into existence, The Constitution of the United States of America.  It is this reality that causes us to use the phrase, "the rule of law".  We are a nation of laws.  We have the division of powers because no man or group of men can be entrusted with too much power.  The corrupt nature of man demands that a system of "checks and balances" be in place.  Therefore we have a system in place that was designed to create tension between the judicial, legislative, and executive branches of government each being jealous of its own power and watching with a wary eye the decisions of the other two.

This concept is clearly present in Isaiah 33:22.  What is strikingly different about our form of government and the statement made in Isaiah is there is no separation of power, no checks and balances.  The divisions exist but they converge in one person, the LORD!  All governing power is united in the LORD!  There are no checks on his power.  There are no balances to his power.  There is no separation of his power.

The Judicial power is the LORD's.
The Legislative power is the LORD's.
The Executive power is the LORD's.

The LORD makes the laws, he executes the laws, and he adjudicates the laws.  All power is invested in him!

Why?  Because he is holy, sovereign, righteous, just, merciful, gracious, omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent.  He is the one person in whom all power can be vested and it not result in a miscarriage of justice.

Thus the Prophet declares, "he will save us."  And so he will.  The Democrats will not save us, the Republicans will not save us, the Independents will not save us, the Tea Parties will not save us, the Libertarians will not save us.  He will save us.

In this intense political season it would do us good to remember that He will save us.  Let us be serious as Christian patriots to cast our ballots in the will of God but always looking to him who needs no balancing of his power and in whom all governing power converges!

Ps 22:28 - For the kingdom is the LORD’S: and he is the governor among the nations.

Ps 75:7 - But God is the judge: he putteth down one, and setteth up another.

Da 2:21 - And he changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding:

Da 4:17 - This matter is by the decree of the watchers, and the demand by the word of the holy ones: to the intent that the living may know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

The Joy Of Divers Temptations

My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; . . . .  James 1:2

In these few words we have the reality and the responsibility of the Christian life set forth.

Reality - Christians are subject to divers temptations

Responsibility - The sober reality should be counted as all joy

The reality being wedded to the responsibility produces a challenge that only those who have the Spirit of God living in them can achieve.  They have the potential to achieve.  Potential does not necessarily translate into reality.  When I read this verse two things come to mind.  I want to live this way.  It is hard to live this way.

What are the temptations of which James is speaking?  The word temptation is being used in a broader sense than what we typically use it.  I think what the Holy Spirit had in mind flows from the pen of James in the following verse:

". . . the trying of your faith . . . . "

That is the essence of all temptation.  It is having our faith tried.  It is being put to the proof, being tested.  Temptation can be anything that tests our allegiance and commitment to Christ.  It is, in essence, the same concept Jesus was addressing when he said in Matthew 6:24,

No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other.

When James writes "divers temptations" he is reminding us that the trying of our faith comes in all shapes and sizes, numerous levels of difficulty.  In fact the word temptations itself is in the plural.

Even the word "fall" is meant to direct our attention to the varied temptation we face.  The word suggests we fall into something that is all around, to be surrounded with.  The reality is, we are daily faced with a barrage of choosing Christ or the other thing, whatever it is.  Everyday, all day we are surrounded with challenges to our commitment to Christ.  It can in fact become wearisome.

Lets face it we really do not know if we are committed and/or how committed until the commitment is challenged.

The trying of our faith is an opportunity.  We are being provided with the opportunity to prove our love and devotion to Christ.  We are be given the opportunity to put our actions where our Amen is.  Circumstances develop throughout life wherein Christ is basically asking will you serve me or self.

If I want to do more than just talk about my love for Christ then I must have my faith tried.  And when my faith is tried I should count it all joy that I have an opportunity to show that I choose Christ and I am committed to him.  If we are walking in the Spirit these opportunities will produce joy.  Remember, joy is the fruit of the Spirit.  Therefore we are not speaking of something generated by the flesh, but rather something produced by the Spirit of the living God!

We step into the midst of the challenges every day, whether great or small, counting it all joy that we have been given these opportunities to trust Him, obey Him, love Him, believe Him, serve Him, and choose Him!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Thirteen Reasons Why I Love Baptist Churches

Acts 15:3 - And being brought on their way by the church, they passed through Phenice and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles: and they caused great joy unto all the brethren.

The scripture tells us that Paul and Barnabas were “brought on their way” by the church.  This clearly has reference to their physical needs and helping them in their journey.  In my own life I can honestly say that the church of Jesus Christ has been the instrument of God to “bring me on my way”.

When I speak of the church I am not speaking of some universal (visible or invisible) entity that has never assembled violating the very essence of a church.  A concept that was born in the mind of Augustine the father of corrupt theology and whose talons seized the Protestant churches in their infancy and whose influence has corrupted the ecclesiology of many Baptists.

I am speaking of the church as an institution whose only existence is to be found in the local, visible assemblies of baptized believers who are covenanted together to carry on the work of Jesus Christ.  I make no pretense about loving Baptist churches.  While I would readily admit that some have given way to apostasy and others seem to be in the initial stages of deterioration I love Baptist churches and consider them to be the only churches holding to the faith once delivered to the saints and having the authority of heaven.

My earliest spiritual memories are connected to a Baptist church.

I have sat under the ministry of six Baptist pastors.

I have heard hundreds of Baptist preachers.

I have been in dozens of Baptist churches.

I have had the opportunity to preach in dozens of Baptist churches in four countries and seven states.

I was saved in a Baptist church.

I was baptized in a Baptist church by a Baptist preacher.

I surrendered to preach in a Baptist church.

I have attended Sunday school in Baptist churches.

I have taught Sunday school in Baptist churches.

I have worked with young people in a Baptist church.

I have led singing in Baptist churches.

I was trained for the Baptist ministry in the context of a Baptist church by a Baptist Pastor.

I have had the opportunity to lead others to repent and believe the gospel in the context of a Baptist church.

I have had the opportunity to disciple others in the context of a Baptist church.

I have had the glorious privilege of pastoring Baptist people in a Baptist church for the last 20 years.

When all is said and done I will have lived and died a Baptist.

I will enter heaven as a born-again Baptist.

My whole life, as long as I can remember, has been wrapped up in Baptist churches. I want to share with you thirteen reasons why I love Baptist churches.

1. Matthew 16:18 – I love Baptist churches because they are the kind that was established by Jesus.

2. Matthew 28:16-20 – I love Baptist churches because they brought the gospel to me.

3. Acts 8:1 – I love the Baptist churches because they have been persecuted throughout history.

4. Acts 12:5 – I love Baptist churches because they provide a community of support.

5. Acts 20:28 – I love Baptist churches because they are the authorized place for the feeding of God’s people.

6. Acts 20:28 – I love Baptist churches because they are the kind that were purchased by the blood of Christ.

7. Eph. 1:22 – I love Baptist churches because the head over all things is head of those churches.

8. Eph. 3:21 – I love Baptist churches because God gets glory through those churches.

9. Eph. 5:25 – I love Baptist churches because Christ loves Baptist churches.

10. Eph. 5:27 – I love Baptist churches because Christ sanctifies Baptist churches.

11. Eph. 5:29 – I love Baptist churches because Christ nourishes and cherishes Baptist churches.

12. Col. 1:24 – I love Baptist churches because those churches are the bodies of Christ.

13. 1 Timothy 3:15 – I love Baptist churches because those churches are the pillar and ground of the truth.

A couple of years ago I went on a field trip with a retired teacher who was continuing to drive a bus.  As we talked he leaned that I was a Baptist pastor and I learned that he was a Methodist. He told me that he understood that a Methodist was a Baptist that could read. I told him that I had heard that a Baptist was a Methodist who had had his eyes opened. He said he would tell me the difference between the Baptist and the Methodist if I would not get offended. A Baptist preaches like he's preaching to 3 saints and 300 sinners while a Methodist preaches like he is preaching to 300 saints and 3 sinners. He said he did not like his preacher to yell. I told him that the Methodist had some pretty fiery preaches in their history.

As I have thought about that I determined if I was a Methodist I would not have anything to get excited about either. So Baptist have a reputation of preaching hell hot, Christ glorious, man completely sinful, heaven well, heavenly, and the cross man’s only hope; and they tend to get a bit passionate about it. I happen to love them for it and may I ever be numbered in their midst.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Reconciling What God Has Put Asunder

The following is from Horatius Bonar's (1808-1889) message, The Evils Within The Church

"Jude, 'the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James,' speak to us in the tone of an ancient prophet.  His voice is that of Elijah or John the Baptist.  It is 'the voice of crying in the wilderness.'  He speaks to the declining churches of his day.  He speaks to the Church of the last days.  It is against the evils within the Church that he specially warns.  What a picture does he draw of error, licentiousness, worldliness, spiritual decay, and ecclesiastical apostasy!  Who could recognize the image of the primitive Church in the description he gives of prevailing iniquity?  The world had absorbed the Church, and the Church was content that it should be so . . .

It is a picture for the Church in our day to study, for we are rapidly becoming part of the world and falling into the snares of the 'god of this world' (2 Corinthians 4:4).  Nay, and we glory in this as 'progress,' 'culture,' and 'enlightenment,' as freedom from the bigotry of other centuries and the narrowness of our half-enlightened ancestors, who did not know how to reconcile contraries and to join what God has put asunder; how to believe everything alike; how to combine earth's pleasures and gaieties with the joy of God; how both to pray and to dance; how to revel and to weep for sin; how to wear both the 'white raiment' and the jeweled ball dress; how to maintain friendship both with God and with His enemies; how both to pamper and to starve the flesh; how to lay up treasure both on earth and heaven; how to drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of devils; how to be partakers of the Lord's table and the table of devils."

(emphasis mine)

It is interesting how we have figured out a way to join together what God had clearly distinguished:

2 Corinthians 6:14-17 - Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?  And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?  And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.  Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,

Psalms 1:1 - Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.

Romans 13:12 - The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.

Ephesians 5:8 - For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light:

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Swallowed Up In A Worldly Church!

The following is from James Smith's, "Man's Treatment of Gods People" 1859:

"If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.  If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.  John 15:18-19

Such is the testimony of the Lord Jesus.

Real Christians have never been favorites of the world--and while it continues what it is, they never can be.

Nor can the pure and simple gospel be pleasant to the world, because it lays the sinner in the dust, and exalts God as supreme and sovereign. Let us not be surprised then, if we hear worldlings speak against the gospel, and traduce the Lord's people; for what the Romans told Paul, is in a good measure true in the present day,  . . . . for as concerning this sect, we know that every where it is spoken against.  Acts 28:22

This 'sect' originated with Jesus, the hated Nazarene, who came into the world for its good, and to save His people from their sins. He gathered around Him many--but they were principally the poor and unlearned. There was nothing in them, or about them, to recommend them to the proud and sensual world.

They were begotten of God, and made new creatures in Christ.

They embraced the truth that He taught.

They observed the precepts that He gave.

They copied the example that He set.

Their creed consisted pretty much in these facts:

that man is a lost sinner, that salvation by works is impossible, and therefore it must be all of grace--or not at all; that the Lord Jesus came into the world to take the sinner's place, fulfill the law in the sinner's stead, and die as the sinner's substitute.

By such hopes, they were animated, by such rules, they walked, and at such objects, they aimed.

And yet, they were spoken against and despised, because they poured contempt on the luxuries, pride, and honors of this world. They were treated as the offscouring of all things, unfit for society, unfit to live.

Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you.  1 John 3:13

And yet, like Israel in Egypt, the more they were persecuted, the more they multiplied and grew; until at length they spread not only over the Roman empire--but nearly over the world. And, had they retained . . .

the simplicity of their lives, the spirituality of their minds, and the correctness of their creed--they would no doubt have encircled the globe!

But at length they were . . .

courted by royalty, loaded with wealth, became intoxicated with worldly honors, and then their glory departed!

They drank into the spirit of the world, conformed to its maxims and customs, sought its approbation and applause--and so fell from their exalted station, and lost their real dignity. The 'sect' that had been spoken against everywhere, with the exception of a few--was swallowed up in a worldly church!

There are still some, who, like the ancient sect of the Nazarenes, are spoken against everywhere. They will not swim with the stream. They will not compromise their Master's honor, or give up their Master's truth. According to the light they have--they walk; and they rejoice to exalt the Savior, humble the sinner, and proclaim salvation, all of grace. They rejoice that they are counted worthy to suffer shame, for His dear name.

Reader! Do you belong to this sect? Is there anything in your religion that is distasteful to the world, anything that draws forth its opposition, or excites its contempt? The carnal mind is still enmity against God, and if we are godlike--that enmity will manifest itself against us!

If we copy Christ's example, as set before us in the gospel; if we testify against the world, that its works are evil, and call upon it to repent, as Christ did--we shall soon be hated by the world!"

(emphasis mine)

Monday, August 16, 2010

O Blessed Rest

Having finished Richard Baxter's book, The Saint's Everlasting Rest I hope you will indulge me one more quote.  I found his last chapter to be his best.

"Rest!  How sweet the sound!  It is melody to my ears!  It lies as a reviving cordial to my heart, and from thence sends forth lively spirits, which beat through all the pulses of my soul!  Rest!  not as the stone that rests on the earth, nor as this flesh shall rest in the grave, nor such a rest as the carnal world desires.  O blessed rest! when we 'rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty!' when we shall rest from sin, but not from worship; from suffering and sorrow, but not from joy!  O blessed day! when I shall rest with God! when I shall rest in the bosom of my Lord! when I shall rest in knowing, loving, rejoicing and praising! when my perfect soul and body shall together perfectly enjoy the most perfect God! when God, who is love itself, shall perfectly love me, and rest in his love to me, as I shall rest in my love to him; and rejoice over me with joy, and joy over me with singing as I shall rejoice in him!"

From A Clod To A Flame

The following is from Richard Baxter's, The Saint's Everlasting Rest:

"And now, reader, according to the above directions, make conscience of daily exercising thy graces in meditation as well as prayer.  Retire into some secret place, at a time the most convenient to thyself, and laying aside all worldly thoughts, with all possible seriousness and reverence look up towards heaven; remember there is thine everlasting rest; study its excellency and reality; and rise from sense to faith, by comparing heavenly with earthly joys.  Then mix ejaculations with thy soliloquies; till having pleaded the case reverently with God, and seriously with thy own heart, thou has pleaded thyself from a clod to a flame; from a forgetful sinner, and a lover of the world, to an ardent lover of God; from a fearful coward to a resolved Christian; from an unfruitful sadness to a joyful life; in a word, till thou has pleaded thy heart from earth to heaven; from conversing below, to walking with God; and till thou canst lay thy heart to rest, as in the bosom of Christ, by some such meditation of thy everlasting rest as is here added for thy assistance."

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Making The Most Of Every Day

While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.
Genesis 8:22

Thou hast set all the borders of the earth: thou hast made summer and winter.
Psalms 74:17

I have weather alerts sent to my blackberry.  For over a week now I have been getting advisories warning that the heat index would be registering between 106 and 112.  They usually last till about eight PM.  Today I received a heat advisory that is in effect till nine PM tomorrow evening.  They obviously are not anticipating much of a cool down during the night, not that uncommon at this time of year.

I found myself looking at the average mean temperatures and noted that they begin to creep down at the end of this month and drop several degrees in October.  I am tempted to long for the end of Summer and cooler weather.  How can this be?  It was just a few months ago I was longing for warmer weather.  Do I really want the Summer to end?  Do I ever really want the warmer weather to blow off the Gulf and bring an end to the cooler temperatures of Winter and Spring?

I suppose I am simply wanting to be comfortable.  Whether I am sitting in my home, my car, walking between the two, mowing the grass, driving a school bus, sitting in church, or whatever.  Do I really want the Summer to end, to be over??  Once it is over it will be gone forever.  This is a Summer that will never be replayed.  When it is over I will have one less Summer than I did just a few months ago when I was longing for warmer weather. 

Is my comfort so important that I would desire to expedite a Summer or Winter that leaves me with one less?  Should not I rather relish the searing heat of summer and the cold winds of winter?  Why is it so hard to praise God for the days when the sun shines in its strength in a noon day sky, or the days when the wind howls it arrival and sends me scurrying for a coat?  Will I not learn, before it is too late, to appreciate the hot days and the cold days in their proper season?

While I am wiping the profuse sweat from my brow and soaking my pants, shirt, and hat can I not worship the God who set the heavens as a "tabernacle for the sun, which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race.  His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it: and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof."

When I step out into the dark, cold wind of winter having bundled myself against its frigid blast can I not rejoice in the one of whom it is said, "He casteth forth his ice like morsels: who can stand before his cold?"

O, Lord, this Summer is almost over, help me to number my days, the hot and the cold ones that I might apply my heart unto wisdom and rejoice in thee.  Help me Lord to be thankful for another hot day to love you and serve you.  And when the time comes help my heart to be warmed in thinking of a God before whose cold I cannot stand.  And Lord, last of all, help me to remember that a hot day or a cold day is better than no day at all!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Holy, Holy, Holy

Revelation 4:6-8 - And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal: and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four beasts full of eyes before and behind.  And the first beast was like a lion, and the second beast like a calf, and the third beast had a face as a man, and the fourth beast was like a flying eagle.  And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.

A couple of weeks ago a missionary friend of mine came by and preached for us on a Wednesday evening.  He preached a wonderful message from Revelation four and five.  It was a message that really exalted the Lord Jesus Christ.

I listened intently as he opened up the Scripture for us and I was seized by a renewed awareness of the four beast that were before the throne.  I am inclined to believe according to Isaiah six that the four beasts were seraphims, angelic beings that promote, guard, and sustain the worship of God at His throne.

Revelation informs us that they "rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come."  I have always stood in awe as my feeble mind has sought to take in this glorious sight, to comprehend the perpetual praise of these four beasts.  I have noted on many occasions the attribute of God which maintains their vigilant attention is Holiness!

That evening I began to think about not so much what they were crying as what they were not crying.  They could have cried anything.  I am compelled to accept that they were crying "Holy, holy, holy" at the Lord's direction.  This is what the Lord wanted cried at his throne day and night without rest.

Think with me for a minute what they were not crying:

Love, love, love, Lord God Almighty
Righteousness, righteousness, righteousness, Lord God Almighty
Merciful, merciful, merciful, Lord God Almighty
Faithful, faithful, faithful, Lord God Almighty
Immutable, immutable, immutable, Lord God Almighty
Sovereign, sovereign, sovereign, Lord God Almighty

No, it was none of these!  It was "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.  This they cried day and night without rest, it was their perpetual refrain.  The seraphim are one note creatures, there is no medley extolling the many attributes of God; just this single verse over and over and over again.

His undiluted purity revealed in infinite holiness drowns out all other voices at the throne.  It seems likely that if we spent more time at the throne the same verse would be on our lips.  We would not tire of it. We would not become weary with the monotony.  We would not dread days without number declaring his holiness without distraction!

We move from his holiness and we cannot rightly understand the true beauty of the lesser attributes of God.  We supplant the heavenly verse with the attribute of our own choosing and we diminish his glory! 

Isaiah 6:1-3 - In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple.  Above it stood the seraphims: each one had sic wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly.  And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to thee;
Holy, holy, holy, merciful and mighty!
God in three Persons, blessed Trinity!

Holy, holy, holy!  All the saints adore thee,
Casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;
Cherubim and seraphim falling down before thee,
Who wert, and art, and evermore shalt be.

Holy, holy, holy!  tho the darkness hide thee,
Tho the eye of sinful man thy glory may not see;
Only thou art holy; there is none beside thee,
Perfect in pow'r, in love, and purity.

Holy, holy, holy!  Lord God Almighty!
All they works shall praise they name, in earth, and sky, and sea;
Holy, holy, holy; merciful and mighty!
God in three Persons blessed Trinity!

When A Man's Tongue Is Extensively Wrong

"Let it be a settled principle again in our religion, that when a man's general conversation is ungodly--his heart is graceless and unconverted. Let us not give way to the foolish notion, that no one can know anything of the state of another's heart, and that although men are living wickedly--they have good hearts at the bottom. Such notions are flatly contradictory to our Lord's teaching. Is the general tone of a man's speech carnal, worldly, godless or profane? Then let us understand, that this is the state of his heart! When a man's tongue is extensively wrong, it is absurd, no less than unscriptural, to say that his heart is right!"

J. C. Ryle

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Coming Glory!

The following is an excerpt from a book I have been reading in for over a year, The Saint's Everlasting Rest by Richard Baxter.

"How wonderful was the Son of God in the form of a servant!  When he is born, a new star must appear, and conduct the strangers to worship him in a manger, heavenly hosts with their songs must celebrate his nativity; while a child, he must dispute with doctors; when he enters upon his office, he turns water into wine, feed thousands with a few loaves and fishes, cleanses the lepers, heals the sick, restores the lame, gives sight to the blind, and raises the dead.  How wonderful, then, is his celestial glory!  If there be such cutting down of boughs, and spreading of garments, and crying Hosanna, for one that comes into Jerusalem riding on an ass; what will there be when he comes with his angles in his glory!  If they that heard him 'preach the Gospel of the kingdom,' confess, 'Never man spake like this man;' they then, that behold his majesty in the his kingdom will say, 'There was never glory like this glory.'  If, when his enemies came to apprehend him, they fell to the ground; if, when he is dying the earth quakes, the veil of the temple is rent, the sun is eclipsed, the dead bodies of the saints arise, and the standers-by acknowledge, 'Truly this was the Son of God;' O what a day will it be when the dead must all arise and stand before him!  When he 'will once shake, not the earth only, but the heavens also!'  When this sun shall be taken out of the firmament, and be everlastingly darkened with his glory!  And when every tongue shall confess him to be the Lord and King!  If, when he rose again, death and the grave lost their power: if angels must 'roll away the stone,' terrify the keepers till they are 'as dead men,' and send the tiding to his disciples; if he ascend to heaven in their sight; of what power, dominion and glory is he now possessed, and which we must for ever possess with him!  When he is gone, can a few poor fisherman and tent-makers cure the lame, blind and sick, open prisons, destroy the disobedient, raise the dead, and astonish their adversaries?  What a world will that be, where every one can do greater works than these!  If the preaching of the Gospel be accompanied with such power as to discover the secrets of the heart, humble the proud sinner, and make the most obdurate tremble; if it can make men burn their books, sell their lands, and bring in the price and lay it down at the preacher's feet; if it can convert thousands, and turn the world upside down; if its doctrine, from the prisoner at the bar, can make the judge on the bench tremble; if Christ and his saints have this power and honor in the day of their abasement, and in the time appointed for their suffering and disgrace, what then will they have in their absolute dominion and full advancement in their kingdom of glory!"

Romans 8:18 - For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.

Shadows In The Sacrifices

I began a series this past Sunday morning entitled Shadows In The Sacrifices.  We will be preaching through the first ten chapter of Leviticus.  The following is my slightly edited introduction from Sunday morning's message.

For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect.  Hebrews 10:1

By the time we get to chapter 10 of Hebrews we have been through an extensive discussion of the Old Testament ceremonial law in chapter 8 and 9.  In fact much of the book of Hebrews places in a New Testament context the content of the book of Leviticus.  It culminates in Hebrews 10:1 where we are informed that the law had a shadow of good things to come.  Those Old Testament sacrifices and priests were a shadow of the very image that was yet to come.  Therefore it is appropriate to look for Shadows In The Sacrifices, as we step inside the ancient Tabernacle of Israel and watch the principles of redemption, atonement, and forgiveness played out before our very eyes.

While the setting may be foreign to our experience the themes presented are timeless:  sin, priesthood, sacrifice, death, and blood atonement.  There is an abundance of Gospel preaching in the first 10 chapters of Leviticus.

Shadows by their very nature present only a form and outline of the image the produces the shadow.  Shadows do not provide details or texture.  But you can follow the shadow to the very image that produces the shadow.  Shadows give clues.  Shadows indicate the presence of something real and substantive.  If there are shadows in the sacrifices then we at least know there is something real and substantive in our presence.  If we faithfully follow the shadows to the place where they intersect with the “very image” we shall find ourselves beholding the Saviour!  It is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ casting his shadow through the sacrifices.

Then verily the first covenant had also ordinances of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary.  For there was a tabernacle made; the first, wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and the shewbread; which is called the sanctuary.  And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of all; Which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant; And over it the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercyseat; of which we cannot now speak particularly.  Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God.  But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people: The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing: Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience; Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation.  But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.  Hebrews 9:1-12

The Tabernacle, it was the place of sacrifice.  The place where sin was dealt with.  It was a bloody place.  It was a place of suffering where the one who was offering saw the consequences of his sin and the offering suffered the consequences of the sin.  It was here that sinners cried and sacrifices cried out.  It was here that substitution was made, the innocent dying in the place of the guilty.

The Tabernacle, it was the place of priests.  The place where they ministered before God for the people.  The place where they ministered to the people for God.  The Priests were daily reminded of the unending plague of sin and transgression.  It was seen in the streams of blood that ran at their feet.  It was seen in the blood that stained their hands.  It was seen in the carcasses of a thousand sacrifices.  It was seen in the expressions of a multitude of sinners.  It was seen as the sinner laid his trembling hand on the head of his offering.

The Tabernacle, it was the place of restoration.  The sweet smell of incense.  The provocative aroma of fat burning on the fire.  The offering to which the sin had been imputed dying in the sinner’s place.  The sense of relief that flooded the guilty countenance.  The heavy heart of the sinner having come to the altar with a sacrifice made quiet and easy in the promise of forgiveness.

We want to enter the sanctuary where these shadows of Jesus fall.  We want to set our little stool in the corner facing the altar of burnt offering and watch the priest go about their work.  We want to watch the sinners come with the shame of guilt and leave with the promise of forgiveness.  We want to watch the savagery, brutality, and blood flow from the sacrifices.  We want to see the shadow of Jesus.  We come to this sacred place looking for Jesus.  We surely will not be disappointed.

In the first ten chapters of Leviticus we will see the presence of sin, the necessity of sacrifice, and the sweetness of salvation.  It is here in type and shadow.  And in seeing the shadow may we appreciate the reality which cast the shadow back all those years.